Ignorance and Self-Loathing: the Two Most Important Hurdles to Progress and Success

This is a fairly bold statement, sales though it has not been made without some thought on my part. I honestly think these two concepts, if addressed, can lead to a big reduction, if not complete obliteration, of various or most problems at all levels, personal up to international.

As this site is for creative professionals, crafters and other makers, we’re talking about applying this to our personal lives as professionals and individuals. If you think about it, so many of our issues can be rooted to failure in addressing one or both of these two things: ignorance and self-loathing (or self-disagreement at various degrees).


This obtuseness, illiteracy, naiveté, or whatever you might call it, equates to a lack of understanding of anything and everything, and is solved by the acquisition of knowledge in its many forms.

Ignorance can account for prejudice and inequality, but it can also explain why your business isn’t working (you don’t understand finance or your clients) and even why your relationship is failing (you don’t know or understand your partner and vice versa).

How can we work on addressing ‘ignorance’ in what we do, so that we can break through barriers and make positive progress?


Improve your understanding of the business and admin side to your career by reading up and taking courses.

Research your target clients so that you gain a better understanding of them, so that you can serve them in the best way.

Improve your own craft through further acquisition of knowledge and experience through courses.

 Start a blog and develop your expertise on something through self-teaching and sharing.

Ask people in your industry who have already succeeded what they did to get there.

At a higher level, support education causes in developing countries, or spread an awareness of the issues facing poorer societies to people in advanced countries, for example.



With this, I’m talking about any form of self-directed dislike, ranging from a lack of self belief in some situations, to full blown self-hate.

My guess is that many think this isn’t a problem worth discussing, and that this isn’t actually an issue that is common. It’s taboo to talk about the idea, but the fact is, that to whatever degree, self-loathing is everywhere and it is rife, in most, particularly advanced societies. It features in most mental ‘disorders’ too, and is perpetuated by a combination of the Media, the economy and modern day stresses.

The key to progress and success is that people support and get on with each other, which is only made possible through some semblance of self-love and self-belief first.

When we nurture a deep love and respect for ourselves, external stresses inevitably decrease, and internally rooted output, productivity and energy emerge without effort. In this way, you become an asset to the world, as opposed to a drain.

Think about the effect this would have on you, your friends and the world when combined with tackling ignorance too. This not selfish, this is vital.

So how to address self-dislike for the better?


Be ok with doing things that make you feel good and treat yourself the way anyone would who truly loved themselves.

Self-affirmation: drown out those negative thoughts about yourself with replacement repetitions that affirm your worth and greatness, or just ignore those worries.

Do things that push you out of your zone of comfort and feel the rush and self-respect this generates.

Help others, and see what an effect this has on your own self-confidence.


You’ll find that tackling these two will have a profound influence on your creative careers and beyond.

This article started out as a quick thought on a train in Japan, but I hope its simple, central message resonates and leads to some positive change at any level.

As usual, I’d love to read, and interact with, your comments.




  1. Thanks for this post, Alex. I think it’s incredibly important to talk about self loathing, low self esteem and any negative perception we might have of ourselves. And I don’t think it’s uncommon at all, we just don’t talk about it enough. Most of us are freelancers and might think we have to appear perfect and flawless to get a gig, impress a possible client, keep our public record tidy.

    Recently I discovered the pocast “The Mental Illness Happy Hour” http://mentalpod.com.

    The host and his guests talk about depression, anxiety, issues and yeah, mental disorders, especially among creative people. The guests are artists, comedians, actors, sometimes doctors. It’s moving, open and funny and it reassures anyone who might go through something similar that they are not alone.

    I can’t recommend it enough.

    • Thanks for the comment, Sarah! All very true and I will stop by the podcast. My only thought on low self-esteem and anxiety issues is that instead of talking about it at every moment, and exasperating the problem in the process (it is after all mostly based on recurring thought), to actually crafting your own strategy of replacing bad thought with the good stuff, in your own way. That’s how I think it can really work.



  2. Sure, that’s the ideal way 🙂 Someone with a real depression might not have the strength to do that.

    I am not for wallowing in problems but for acknowledging that they are there (if they are), for letting people know they are not alone and that it is okay to ask for professional help if you need to because you can’t get unstuck by yourself.

  3. There must be something in the rhythm of a train going along a track that sets the brain cogs in motion… (though I suspect the trains in Japan don’t clickety-clack the way they do here!) It’s as interesting to hear about where your ideas germinate as it is to read the polished result.

    A thought-provoking piece, Alex and one that will surely have your readers boldly staring in the face of their demons and hauling out the monsters from under their beds. Before these demons can be confronted,however, they have to be exposed and it might be easier for people to recognise their ‘self-loathing’ gremlin as the evil cousin of ‘perfectionism’. I think ‘self-loathing’ may be too strong a term to use and one that might make people reluctant to accept they suffer from it. As you say, ‘self-disagreement at varying degrees’ – is perhaps more accurate. You’re right about it being an ‘advanced society’ disease; I also believe soul-exploration in general is a first-world phenomenon. People elsewhere are too busy tackling the practicalities of living to be looking inwards to this extent.

    There’s a danger that people might see themselves as ‘victims’ of self-loathing, when in fact they are the chief perpetrators. And this is where your coverage of the topic of ‘ignorance’ is well placed to provide balance: the up-beat ‘just do it’ part of your message gives readers something more tangible to deal with in order to dispel a tendency for self-flagellation.

    When I next find myself stuck for ideas, I shall plant myself in a First Great Western carriage with a notebook to scribble in and a pencil to chew on. Thanks.

    • Wow Shireen, your comment rivals the post itself! This has certainly made me think about the validity of sitting on trains in furthering creative and productive thought. Come to think of it, most of my ‘good’ ideas have come to me railway-station-bound and I recommend others follow suit in opening up notepads when doing so!

      All that you say is true and I have been careful to word the post in a way that makes sense to all and doesn’t alienate others. Interesting that you talk about looking inwards being a feature of ‘advanced’ societies; I guess it is – though it is probably much more necessary seeing we have gotten ourselves into this situation in the first place.

      Keep creating!

  4. Just looking at the train timetable now…
    Perhaps there should be a creative co-thinkers’ carriage. Now there’s an idea!

  5. here’s a point I’m not too sure how to approach – exactly how do you find out who is the target clients I need to serve and help in any way?
    Just wondering?


  6. Happy to see that seed of thought on a train flourished in to another great post, Alex. I look forward to more, man.
    Cheers, M

  7. I absolutely disagree that looking inwards is a product of “advanced” societies. In fact most of what we know of looking inward and soul searching comes from third world countries and eastern medicine where the soul plays a very important role in everyday life, unlike most of society in the “western” world.

    As for the article I think it’s really good advice for people who do have the power inside to turn these things off, but when you start to look at people who have mental illness the options you provide don’t always work. It is however an interesting and thought provoking subject.

    Thanks for the post.

  8. Thanks @ReverbSoul, yes, I agree – in fact ‘soul-searching’ in my view is more accurately described as being a feature of humanity in general, not just ‘non-western’ countries.

    I think what Shireen was trying to say was that this growing need to look-inward in ‘advanced’ countries has been a result of the increasing stress issues currently faced there, as opposed to them simply being a more incorporated part of the culture in other places anyway.

    I also believe that, though my suggestions for overcoming self-acceptance issues are basic, the true answers to the majority of mental problems lie in the simplest of methods.

  9. Based on these two sentences I did not interpret the comment that way.

    “I also believe soul-exploration in general is a first-world phenomenon. People elsewhere are too busy tackling the practicalities of living to be looking inwards to this extent.”

    If my interpretation of that is incorrect I do apologize. I believe as perhaps you do as well from the sound of it, that western societies anxiety and stresses actually comes from the LACK of this “soul-searching.” Many people aren’t finding and incorporating this into their lives until they are already anxious and stressed, and often later in their lives than many other cultures and religions in the third world. My examples for this would be Buddhist cultures in China, and the East and also tribal African cultures, while I’m sure there are still many others that lie outside of that small scope.

    You do pose an interesting point though that perhaps this “need” for soul-searching is actually a quality of humanity, or perhaps even a basic human need. Which by and large I agree with.

    In regards to the simplest of methods to overcome mental illness I still disagree, and would point to many many creatives over the years committing suicide because the simple methods just weren’t enough to overcome the stress they were feeling. You see this a lot in the rock’n’roll culture of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s in America, but you can also look to artists throughout the ages that struggled with mental illness and eventually took their own lives.

    A small list of artists who have taken their own lives:


    That being said though I do agree that for a majority of people simple methods of overcoming stress and anxiety are often the best. It’s really a lot about repetition and pattern, and setting ourselves within “good” patterns and repetitions that promote our personal and professional growth.

    For perspective in 2009 I was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and put on medications. Being that I hate medications I decide that for myself I had to find a way to move through what was challenging me in my own way. I chose to pack my bags and travel the US with no destination in mind besides going out to find myself. I used many of the methods you describe in this article during that journey, and one of the most powerful moments of my journey was metaphorically throwing my pills into the ocean when I got to the west coast. It was there that I stopped taking my medications and formed a new trust and commitment to myself, and I haven’t looked back since. While this was the method I used to overcome my own struggle I have to understand and realize that not everyone has the ability mentally or financially to do what I did.

    Thanks for responding Alex. I really enjoy hearing your ideas and how you perceive things.

  10. I take your point, @ReverbSoul. I hadn’t thought of it that way and perhaps ‘soul-exploration’ was the wrong expression to use in this context. Especially, as you rightly say, this kind of introspection has its roots in the rich cultures of the East. No, I was thinking more along the lines of Alex’s reference to stress levels and how modern living has contributed to this and affected our personal and social equilibrium, giving rise to questions of self-worth.

    Here’s a thought…
    Do you think perhaps certain elements of our society’s infrastructure have been lost along the way to advancement – the elements that affect our support system and nurture our values? With these reduced or broken up, it’s easy to see how each person becomes an ‘island’, drawing on their own resources; and that’s when feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt are most likely to creep in. These aren’t the sorts of issues the developing world generally have to contend with, are they?

    (Anyway, I don’t think it’s fair to refer to Western/Eastern as opposite ends of advancement – the geography and demographics don’t correspond).

    So, going back to the blog – I’d say that engagement with others (certainly in the professional capacity) is the best remedy to negative introspection – especially for creative souls: avoid ‘island life’ and build bridges everywhere, to dispel what Alex refers to here as ‘ignorance’ and ‘self-loathing’.

    Thanks for the comments – gave me more to think about.

  11. Without a doubt I believe that. Arguably it is spawned from capitalism, which is largely found in “developed” or “western” cultures(Those probably aren’t the right words as you pointed out, but they are the words I can think of to describe this.) I make that claim because capitalism, at least in my perspective, teaches people to work simply for themselves and for their own means. The effect of this is when we fail, or don’t do as well as we had thought we blame ourselves. Somehow we’ve come to the conclusion that if we fail at 1 thing we are complete failures, or if we don’t succeed to the degree that someone else does we are lesser than them. Therefore I believe social structure of different “classes” of people is largely what drives self-doubt.

    It can then be reasoned that working with others and seeing yourself as equal will dispel self-loathing. Which I believe lines up pretty well with the ‘island-life’ example that you mentioned, and also with Alex’s model mentioned in the article.

  12. I didn’t mean to use Western and Eastern to define the geography of the ideas I was referring to, and apologize if I was unclear on that. I meant to use Western and Eastern to illustrate the accepted philosophical thought patterns.

  13. Thanks for the discussion and deep comments everyone! Interesting stuff.

    @ReverbSoul yes I do think making it clear to yourself how you are on the same level as others and a contributing part of society has a very strong effect how you see yourself. Much of self-loathing stems from a feeling of separation from others, I believe.

  14. Great post, although I always hesitate to ask people who have done really well how they did it because I assume they’ll have a ‘Find out for yourself like I did’ attitude. This is odd given that I have freely given what little information I have acquired over the years very freely to anyone who has asked for it. Maybe I should stop assuming that everyone is going to be so mean spirited…

    On another point, I’d love to get a business mentor but am not really in a position to pay for it – can anyone recommend anywhere that business people are happy to give advice/swap ideas etc? UK based please. I know there are a lot out there and that’s the problem – I’d really like to go for one that comes by personal recommendation, thanks.

  15. Firstly I think you’d be surprised how many artists are actually like you and give freely with advice on how to do things. On the other hand though, what’s the worst that could happen? They say “No, find out for yourself.” Personally I’ve had a lot of success from overcoming that fear and just asking someone. It was difficult at first, but now it comes as second nature. Artists, especially good ones, are just like everyone else, and I’ve found that when you treat them like just another person and not an idol they are very willing to help out.

    As for free business mentors, my suggestion is Twitter. Follow good artists within your field, watch what they post, follow their blogs(like Alex’s here,) join discussions, and give back to the community. Hope some of this helps, Sue.

    Interested to hear what Alex says as well.

    • I’d agree with @ReverbSoul in that artists of all skill levels are just people. In fact everyone is in need of a mentor, no matter what stage in their careers they are and what kind of advice or information and help they need.

      Asking people questions and providing help in return is and should exist if we are to progress as humans, let alone individual artists. Social media is a great way to tap into the information you can get from having a one to one mentor. I wouldn’t be hesitant in reaching out to people that you feel can help you and building up a conversation with them. Sure, many will be lacking in time or simply not make a move to help you out, but that’s ok, because there are many people out there, with lots to share.

      We live in the age of the Internet, remember, and the opportunity this provides for people looking for help and support is unparalleled. Just be bold and start talking to people. Email is still the best tool for this, but blogs and and other platforms for content sharing are the real juice in this.

      Good luck!

  16. Interesting, thanks. In his book ’59 Seconds’ Richard Wiseman talks about how asking someone for help and advice is the number one way to make them feel good about themselves – it’s a guaranteed way to make someone feel valued and knowledgeable (and hence important), so people who don’t give out that information are missing out!
    Thanks, Sue

  17. Guess an insane amount of self doubt can get so far to cause self loathing and pose a huge hindrance to moving ahead or approaching those you admire.

    It’s a great article and love what you do to promote creativity. Your newsletter always brings a sense of positivity. Thanks Alex.

  18. I sure do love you, Red Lemon Club! It’s so refreshing to see a blog / website on creatives that is concise, honest and kind. Thank you for this article. It’s given me something to keep in mind today when trying to reach out to others about my ideas and collaborations.

  19. Woah! You’re right! I’m not ignorant but I kinda hate myself really, really bad. It’s not that I don’t believe in myself, I know I can do really amazing things, but I really hate myself for everything else. You opened my eyes, thanks!

  20. “Be ok with doing things that make you feel good and treat yourself the way anyone would who truly loved themselves.” – That sentence may be over-simplified. Most of us were taught by people who didn’t love themselves either. How do we know what actions result in and from self-love? It’s not a simple, obvious process. I do find, though, that a lot of people – particularly women – won’t self-love themselves but will go out of their way to make others feel taken care of and loved. Maybe a better statement would be to be willing to support and look after ourselves the way we are for others.

    “Self-affirmation: drown out those negative thoughts about yourself with replacement repetitions that affirm your worth and greatness, or just ignore those worries.” Comon… “Just ignore those worries?” Based on your other writings I’m sure you realize how silly and unrealistic that comment is…. :-/

    Otherwise, it’s a good article, great concept. I look forward to more, well-thought-out articles on the theme. 🙂

        • Well this is an old post, so perhaps my ideas have changed, but my concept of worry, is that they are unnecessary thoughts – therefore they are to be ignored not dwelled upon, like so many of us have trouble doing. I used to worry a lot more than I do now, because I made a choice to ignore them and focus on more important actions.

          • Ok, I understand now. I guess I was still thinking along the lines of the self-loathing. As someone who has lived with clinical depression and mental illness for 40 years, both personally and loved ones, the comment hearkened me back to the common comment, something along the lines of, “just think positively” well-meaning but totally without understanding.

            I apologize for misunderstanding your context. And thank you for the effort to explain! 🙂

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